Great Ideas about Language (Q1084)

15 credits, Level 5

Autumn teaching

This module explores the history of ideas about language from the Enlightenment to the present. Through lectures and seminars we explore the answers to the following: What questions have propelled linguists at different points in history? How have attempts to answer them been influenced by time, place and culture? How do assumptions about language affect what counts as linguistic evidence?

Topics include:

  • the birth of linguistics in the shift from diachronic to synchronic studies
  • Chomskyan rationalism and innatism
  • language and thought
  • European structuralism and functionalism
  • the cognitive turn and how linguistics might be decolonised.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay, Report)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2024/25. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: